SHIP ISLAND, Miss. (WLOX) - It’s been a long time since Ship Island has been whole, and it has not been easy.
Justin McDonald is program manager of the Mississippi Coastal Improvements program overseeing the project.
“It’s a huge operation,” he said. “It’s the second-largest restoration project in the history of the National Park Service only behind the Florida Everglades. So, it’s a really big accomplishment for the Army Corps of Engineers, the National Park Service and a really big thing for the folks in the state of Mississippi.”
The $400 million project that is pumping millions of cubic yards of sand is a joint effort between the Army Corps of Engineers and the National Park Service. It is connecting the 3.5-mile cut originally created by Hurricane Camille and widened by Hurricane Katrina.
People may look at the sand beach and think nothing of it. In fact, they make take it for granted in years to come. However, it took a long time to build this 500-foot wide sand beach that’s 5 feet tall, and it means so much more than just connected East Ship Island to West Ship Island.
It’s good news for the economy, ecology and protection of our coastline.
Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes is also on the National Park System's advisory board.
“Understanding the significance of this island chain and what it does for us, it gives us an opportunity to educate folks, make it more accessible to people and still have the benefit of shoreline protection and estuary development,” he said.
The island has been breached before but was able to restore itself, but until this intervention, there hasn’t been enough natural flow of sand that would have fixed the missing piece.
Restoration is huge for the Gulf Islands National Seashore, which draws 5 million people a year, more than Yellowstone.
“People love their islands, love their beaches, love their water,” said Dan Brown, park superintendent with the Gulf Islands National Seashore. “And one of the wonderful things about the National Parks is that they belong to all of us.”
The second phase, which is underway now, will raise the level of sand two more feet and double the width.
That will be finished in March of 2020.
The third and fourth phases to restore the southern shoreline of Eastern side of Ship Island are scheduled to be finished the following fall.